I had lunch one day with one of the writers from The Carol Burnett Show. She said, “I learned so much from your dad, but for the longest time, I thought he was crazy.” She went on to explain, as if an explanation was necessary, that while working on The Carol Burnett Show, Dad was busy doing other things.
“Whenever we asked your dad if he wanted to go to lunch with us, he would say, ‘I can’t. I’m working on a speech for the local Kiwanis Club…or writing a book…or working on some magazine article for $50.’ Here we were working on the highest rated show, winning all kinds of awards, making pretty good money and your dad was writing a speech for a group of businessmen. I thought he was crazy.” She said he always encouraged her and her partner to do these things. “Why would we want to? We were award-winning writers. We didn’t need anything else. Until we were no longer on the air and the jobs weren’t so easy to come by.” She said that while she was looking for work, Dad was on a book tour with his second book and had contracts for more. He had become a well-respected humor speaker and was traveling the country giving talks for thousands of dollars. She realized that while she and the other writers were living in the present, Dad had been preparing for the future. And when the future came, which it tends to do whether we’re ready or not, Dad was prepared.
This story reminded me of a little bit of advice that I received when I ventured out into the freelance world. I was having a discussion with someone about my decision. They said, “That’s great, just remember to work half for today and half for tomorrow.”
He went on to say that no matter how much time you’re going to invest into this area, whether it’s two hours a day or eight, be sure to divide it in half. Spend half of that time working on your assignments for now. Spend the other half making sure you have assignments for tomorrow.
Basically, this is what Gene was doing in the first story, whether he knew it or not. He wasn’t resting on his laurels but was laying the groundwork for future work. No matter what you are working on today, things could change tomorrow and if you’re not prepare, you could be in trouble.
So what does that mean to you? It means, if you are a comedian, and you’re working on new material and developing your act, that’s great, but also spend some time getting bookings six, seven months down the line. If you’re a writer working on the contacts you have today, great, but spend some time making new contacts and generating more contracts for later.
Let’s say you spend four hours a day working on your comedy.
Spend two of those hours on what’s happening right now, and spend the other two working on the future…whatever it may be. If you want to write sitcoms, start writing your spec scripts now. If you want to get booked in the LA clubs, start the groundwork now. Try this for a bit and see how quickly things start happening.